- Stress can make you fat, according to several studies.
- Stress can put your cortisol in overdrive to replenish the energy you lost when your body was in fight or flight mode.
- When you’re stressed, your body craves sugar, which can build up in your body over time, making you fat.
The Role of Cortisol in the Body
Stress affects your body’s ability to maintain a healthy weight. According to research, an increase in the stress hormone cortisol can cause weight gain. When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol, which causes glucose, the primary source of your energy, to be released into your bloodstream.
This is your body’s fight or flight response to a risky situation. When the threat subsides, your adrenaline high fades, and your blood sugar drops, causing your cortisol to go into overdrive replenish your energy supply quickly.
Cortisol and Sugar Cravings
Sugar provides your body with the quick energy it thinks it needs, so it’s often the first thing you crave when you’re stressed. However, consuming too much sugar can lead to sugar build up in the form of abdominal fat. This can lead to a vicious cycle of stress-eating that may result in weight gain.
Cortisol and Metabolism
Aside from making you crave sugar, cortisol also slows down your metabolism. According to a 2015 research by Ohio State University, women who are stressed burn fewer calories than non-stressed women. Stressed women also had higher levels of insulin, a hormone that encourages fat storage.
Unhealthy Habits Caused by Stress
Aside from hormonal changes, stress can also cause the following unhealthy behaviors, which may result in weight gain:
- Emotional eating: High levels of cortisol can cause you to overeat as a form of temporary relief from your stress.
- Eating fast food: When we are stressed, our tendency is to reach for the first thing we see or what is readily available, like fast food.
- Exercising less: A busy schedule can leave little opportunity for physical activity.
- Skipping meals: When we have a lot of things on our to-do list, we usually find ourselves skipping meals.
- Sleeping less: Stress can cause sleep deprivation, which is also linked to a slower metabolism.
Breaking the Cycle of Stress and Weight Gain
Here are a few ways to help you break the vicious cycle of stress and weight gain:
- Prioritize exercise. Exercising is essential in reducing stress and managing weight. You can go for a quick walk, hit the gym, or incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
- Choose healthier comfort foods. Stock your pantry with healthier comfort foods, such as air-popped popcorn, so you have a healthier option when you’re stressed.
- Practice mindful eating. According to a study, overweight women who practiced mindfulness and nutrition-training were better in avoiding emotional eating, had lower stress levels, and less belly fat over time. Practice eating your meals without distractions next time.
- Keep track of what you eat. A 2011 review of studies suggests that keeping a food journal helps in weight management.
- Stay hydrated. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger. If you feel hungry even if you’ve just eaten, try drinking water first, then see if you still feel hungry.
- Practice stress-relief strategies. Simple stress relievers like doing yoga, reading a good book, taking a deep breath, listening to music, or going on a walk, can reduce your cortisol levels and help you manage your weight.
If your stress or its effects is causing you distress or making it difficult to fulfill daily duties, we recommend seeking professional health.
Source: Very Well Health